(This article has been updated.)
On September 19, CBC organized a meeting at the Hamilton Convention Centre to discuss bringing a radio station to Hamilton. Ted Kennedy, Program Director of English CBC-Radio, hosted the meeting.
It was attended by close to 50 Hamiltonians and included Councilor Brian McHattie, MP David Sweet, Tom Wilson, Mike Samperin, Doug Cameron, Sonja Macdonald and Paul Shaker from the Center for Community Study, and other 'movers and shakers' in the city.
Raise The Hammer's Ben Bull and I were also honoured to be in attendance.
Kennedy indicated that Hamilton was the largest, and most under-represented city in the country in terms of radio, media and a 'diverse voice' and that was why CBC had recommended Hamilton for a local radio station.
As an example, Kennedy pointed out that Edmonton - a similar size market to Hamilton - has 17 radio stations, plus two daily newspapers and four television stations. Hamilton, by comparison, has six radio stations, one daily newspaper and one television station.
That clearly doesn't provide diverse voices in Hamilton's media. Therefore, CBC needs to be broadcasting local news, opinions and commentary here.
The recommendation for a Hamilton radio station is part of a $25 million expansion to the CBC budget that includes 15 new radio stations for 17 cities.
"It's a win, win, win for everybody," Ted Kennedy said when referring to the possible new station that would employ 20 staff, and include ten journalists covering Hamilton news exclusively.
He pointed out that the journalists will also share their news stories with the local private media and that there is no competition because CBC doesn't accept advertising messages.
If the proposal is accepted for funding by Heritage Canada, it will offer "100 million extra hours for Canadians to consume Canadian content," all that for what amounts to a very small increase to the entire public broadcaster's budget.
"Radio is a very cost effective medium," Kennedy noted, to give Hamilton what it needs.
The new station would provide local coverage from 6:00am to 8:30am and 4:00pm to 6:00pm, and outside those times it would broadcast the national signal.
Those times are the highest listenership times for radio.
Ted Kennedy also pointed out five things that happen in a community when CBC broadcasts to it.
Economic Driver - It raises the profile of a city nationally and internationally.
Cultural Driver - It promotes local comedians, writers, musicians and artists to regionally and nationally.
News Coverage - In the event of a big story, CBC is able to relocate other reporters to cover the story. For example during the Manitoba Flood, or Plastimet Fire, extra journalists would be made available to cover the complete story.
Partnerships in the community - It aids, mentors, loans or supplies local talent expertise and/or equipment.
Dialogue and Debate - It raises the awareness of local issues to a wider citizenship and offers a variety of opinions and education.
There is no doubt that Hamilton needs CBC to broadcast a diverse voice. Hamilton is a distinct city in Canada, economically, socially, and culturally.
"Hamilton is an island in Canada", said Jane Christmas, referring to our lack of national exposure and lack of awareness when it comes to many local issues.
Let's hope that the funding is approved and we can start hearing our local voice on a new radio station in a couple years.
The Heritage Standing Committee will review the proposal to expand CBC coverage sometime later this year or early next. After that, if the proposal goes forward it will be submitted to Parliament for a vote.
The best way to get your voice heard is to contact your local MP and let them know your thoughts.
Note: Ted Kennedy and MP David Sweet recommended that Hamiltonians should, "try and avoid" a mass email/letter writing approach as this is "unlikely to be effective."
"Just explain to your MP what your thoughts are," advised Kennedy. "A personal approach is probably best."
Update: This blog entry originally reported that the meeting was organized by Jane Christmas from the Public Relations office at McMaster University. This is incorrect, though McMaster "supports the idea wholeheartedly". Raise the Hammer regrets the error.
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